Work in Sports
Playing it cool
Now one step away, Mets keep emotions in check
By John Donovan, CNNSI.com
NEW YORK -- One win away from the World Series, the New York Mets are trying their darndest to play it cool.
For the most part, it seems to be working.
After their huge 10-6 win in Sunday night's Game 4 of the National League Championship Series, the Mets own a nearly insurmountable 3-1 lead on the St. Louis Cardinals in the first-to-four series. The Mets could wrap things up with a win in Game 5, scheduled for Monday evening in Shea Stadium.
Truth is, it may be harder to keep their emotions under wrap than to actually knock off the Cardinals one more time.
"I think we just have to try to keep it at an even keel," Mets reliever Glendon Rusch said, "and try to go out [Monday] and get 27 good outs."
Winning Monday night is key for a couple reasons. First, the Mets have their best pitcher on the mound in left-hander Mike Hampton. A loss with him pitching would not bode well for the rest of the postseason -- however long it might last. Secondly, a loss Monday would force a Game 6 all the way back in St. Louis.
The last thing the Mets want to do is fly back to St. Louis for another game or two.
"I think it's very important [to wrap the series up Monday]," Rusch said from the Mets' clubhouse after Sunday's win. "I know it's something everyone in here wants to make sure we concentrate on."
Sunday's win was the first win for a home team in this series, and the Mets certainly seemed relieved by it. No music blared in the clubhouse afterward, and certainly no one was openly predicting a win, either for Monday or in the series.
But with Hampton going, and the Cardinals going with Pat Hentgen (who has yet to pitch this postseason), and with the threat of a trip to St. Louis hanging over them and a Subway Series only a game away for the Mets and Yankees ... well, it wouldn't be wise to bet against the Mets.
"Obviously, we're in a good position," Mets catcher Mike Piazza said. "But this is the time where you can't really let up and start to philosophize. Now's not really the time to reflect or think about it, really."
For weeks, the Mets have been forced to field questions about a possible Subway Series. Now a game away on each side -- the Yankees lead the Seattle Mariners 3-2 in the ALCS -- the questions are starting to pile up.
"I'm just so focused on trying to win this series," Piazza insisted. "I think you can really do yourself some harm if you start worrying about ... even the Yankees. They haven't won their series as well. So it's kind of premature to think about it."
The Mets have another reason to be hopeful -- or fearful, whichever way they want to play it. Since 1985, when the best-of-seven format was introduced for the NLCS, only one team has taken a 3-1 series lead and not advanced to the World Series. That team was the 1996 Cardinals.
To avoid that fate, the Mets will have to make sure they take care of their business as soon as possible. And in a quiet and confident clubhouse late Sunday evening, there was every indication they would.